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Ireland Criminalizes Blasphemy 1376

An anonymous reader writes "Another European country clamps down on free speech. From the article: 'It does seem bizarre that, in 2009, a modern European nation would seek to shield religious belief from criticism — yet that is what is happening in Ireland right now. In repealing the 1961 Defamation Act, the Irish government sought to expunge the worst excesses of Ireland's draconian laws restricting free speech, but in the process it has ended up making offending religious belief a criminal offence. Aside from a 25,000 fine (reduced from the 100,000 originally sought by the government), the new Defamation Act gives the authorities the power to stage raids on publishers: the courts may now issue a warrant authorising the police to enter, using "reasonable force," premises where they have grounds for believing there are copies of "blasphemous statements."'"
Image

Company Denies Its Robots Feed On the Dead 154

Back in January we covered the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, or EATR. The EATR gets its energy by "engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment ..." So many news outlets picked up the story and ran it with titles alluding to the robot "eating flesh" or even "eating corpses" that a company spokesperson put out a press release saying, "This robot is strictly vegetarian." The statement says in part, "RTI's patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes 'human bodies,' the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips — small, plant-based items for which RTI's robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI."
Classic Games (Games)

Forty Years of Lunar Lander 136

Harry writes "2009 marks not only the fortieth anniversary of Apollo 11, but also four decades of the iconic, omnipresent Lunar Lander, one of the first simulation games ever written. The first version was written by an Apollo-crazy high school student; among its countless descendants are the classic Atari arcade machine and versions for practically every other platform, from the Apple II to the iPhone. We're celebrating with a look at the game's origins, history, and significance — including an interview with creator Jim Storer, who hadn't given the game a moment's thought since he left high school, and wasn't aware of the phenomenon he spawned."
Earth

Alaskan Blob Is an Algae Bloom 130

Bryan Gividen writes "Time.com is running a story on the previously unidentified blob floating off of the coast of Alaska. The article states that the blob is an algae bloom — far less sinister (or exciting) than any The Thing or The Blob comparison that was jokingly made. From the article: '"It's sort of like a swimming pool that hasn't been cleaned in a while." The blob, Konar said, is a microalgae made up of 'billions and billions of individuals.'"
Security

Is Battery-Free 2-Factor ID Secure? 180

An anonymous reader writes "There was a television program in Australia last week about Matthew Walker's visual battery-less two-factor authentication system called PassWindow. Essentially, you hold the clear plastic window up to the apparently random pattern on the screen of your computer, revealing a one-time PIN to type in for authentication. The plastic window has many advantages: difficult to copy or view over the shoulder, etc. Because there is no electronics, chip or battery, the PassWindow is extremely cheap to manufacture, giving it a big advantage over other two-factor authentication systems. However, I don't know about the security of the system. The apparently random pattern of lines in the PassWindow is analogous to a one-time pad, using a different subset of the one-time pad every time a PIN is needed. Is this a useful level of security for logging in to a bank account?"
Biotech

DNA Differences Observed Between Blood and Organs 85

Scrameustache writes "Researcher working on a rare type of aortic abnormality found that the DNA from diseased tissue did not match the DNA from the blood of the same patients So far it's unclear whether these differences in the blood and aortic tissue are the consequence of RNA editing, which changes the messenger RNA but not the gene, or DNA editing, which involves differences in the gene itself. Based on the evidence so far, the researchers believe the differences resulted from developmental rather than somatic DNA alterations. 'Traditionally when we have looked for genetic risk factors for, say, heart disease, we have assumed that the blood will tell us what's happening in the tissue,' lead author Bruce Gottlieb said in a statement. 'It now seems this is simply not the case.'"
Mozilla

New Firefox Vulnerability Revealed 250

Not long after Firefox 3.5.1 was released to address a security issue, a new exploit has been found and a proof of concept has been posted. "The vulnerability is a remote stack-based buffer-overflow, triggered by sending an overly long string of Unicode data to the document.write method. If exploited, the resulting overflow could lead to code execution, or if the exploit attempts fail, a denial-of-service scenario." It's recommended that Firefox users disable Javascript until the issue is patched, though add-ons like NoScript should do the trick as well (unless a site on your whitelist becomes compromised).

Update: 07/20 00:09 GMT by KD : An anonymous reader informs us that the Mozilla security blog is indicating that this vulnerability is not exploitable; denial of service is as bad as it gets.
Earth

Earthquake Invisibility Cloak 121

BuzzSkyline writes "The same folks who brought us the tsunami invisibility cloak last year have now come up with an earthquake invisibility cloak. They show that a platform made of just the right configuration of elastic rings could make a structure invisible to earthquakes by effectively steering a quake around the structure. It doesn't work well for compression waves, but the researchers claim it could hide buildings from the slower-moving, more destructive shear earthquake waves. The research is due to be published soon in the journal Physical Review Letters."
Medicine

Med Students Get Training In Second Life Hospitals 126

Hugh Pickens writes "Discover Magazine reports that although medical simulations have been around for a long time, medical schools like Imperial College London are starting to use virtual hospitals in Second Life so students can learn their way around an O.R. before they enter the real thing. The students can also test their knowledge in the Virtual Respiratory Ward by interviewing patient avatars, ordering tests, diagnosing problems, and recommending treatment. 'The real innovation in SL clinical simulations is that they bring people together in a clinical space — you are standing next to an avatar who is a real patient, and the doctor avatar to your right is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and the nurse to your left is at the University of Pennsylvania hospital,' says John Lester, the Education and Healthcare Market Developer at Linden Labs. The most significant benefit of SL training may be the cost. Real-life training facilities require thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars to build and maintain, while SL simulation rooms can be created for minimal costs, and accessed from anywhere in the world for the price of an internet connection. SL can also expose students to situations that a standard academic program can't duplicate: 'You can take risks that aren't safe in the real world and teach more complex subjects in three dimensions,' says Colleen Lin. 'When you're resuscitating a dummy in real life, it looks like a dummy. But you can program an avatar to look like it's choking or having a heart attack, and it looks more real to the student responsible for resuscitating it.'"
The Internet

Kazaa To Return As a Legal Subscription Service 133

suraj.sun sends in this excerpt from CNet: "One of the most recognizable brands in the history of illegal downloading is due to officially resurface, perhaps as early as next week, sources close to the company told CNET News. Only this time the name Kazaa will be part of a legal music service. Altnet and parent company Brilliant Digital Entertainment attached the Kazaa brand to a subscription service that will offer songs and ringtones from all four of the major recording companies. For the past few months, a beta version has been available. The company tried recently to ratchet up expectations with a series of vague, and what some considered misguided, press releases. The site will open with over 1 million tracks." The NYTimes has a related story about how the music industry is trying to convert casual pirates by offering more convenient new services.
The Military

Open Source Software In the Military 91

JohnMoD writes With the advent of forge.mil, etc. the military seems to be getting on board with free and open source software. A working group meeting is going to be held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, August 12-13, 2009. There's a pretty good lineup of speakers including a Marine from the Iraq-Marine Expeditionary Forces, who was on the ground and saw the agility open source gave to him and his soldiers. A number of OSS projects are going to be meeting there: Delta 3D, OpenCPI, FalconView, OSSIM, Red Hat, etc. Looks like there will be some good discussions."
Media

Danish Expert Declares Vinland Map Genuine 210

MBCook writes "A Danish conservation expert named Rene Larsen has finished a 5-year study of the infamous Vinland Map and declared it genuine. 'All the tests that we have done over the past five years — on the materials and other aspects — do not show any signs of forgery,' he said at the press conference. He and his team studied the ink, the paper, and even insect damage. They believe that the ink, which was discovered in 1972 to contain titanium dioxide and thus supposedly was too new for the map to be genuine, was contaminated when sand was used to dry the ink."
Input Devices

Can New Game Control Schemes Hope To Match the PC Keyboard? 202

An opinion piece on Gamasutra discusses how, in spite of the fancy new motion control systems that have come to console gaming, the PC's keyboard and mouse setup is still unreplaceable for many titles and genres. Quoting: "With over 100 keys to choose from (back of the box quotation right there), the possibilities are near endless, if you start to think of shift and control functions altering the purpose of keys. It means that, when the developers start to make their game, they don't have to worry about the limitations of the interface, knowing that, if all else fails, they can always assign the compass to K, even if that's a bit of a stretch to all but the pianists. The keyboard is the friend of ambition, and ArmA 2 is the testament to that, in all its surrealist, broken glory. ... It's the same reason RTS games have found a home on the PC for so long, able to use the skills people accumulate moving around windows and clicking on icons to command troops and manipulate their battle lines. Developers taking advantage of what we already know to teach us something we don't is what gaming is all about."
Power

Consumers May Find Smart Appliances a Dumb Idea 347

theodp writes "As GE readies appliances that communicate with smart meters in the hope of taking advantage of cheaper electricity rates, CNet asks a big question: Are consumers ready for the smart grid? Right now, most utilities only offer a flat rate, not time-of-use pricing, so the example of a drier that reacts to a 'price signal' about peak rates by keeping one's clothes wet until a more affordable time is pretty much a fantasy. And longer-term, a big question is whether consumers will want to deal with the hassle of optimizing household appliance energy usage themselves, or be willing to relinquish monitoring and control to utility companies — with a concomitant loss of privacy. After all, losing one's copy of 1984 is one thing — losing one's lights and refrigerator is another thing altogether."
NASA

Early Abort of Ares I Rocket Would Kill Crew 414

FleaPlus writes "From studying past solid rocket launch failures, the 45th Space Wing of the US Air Force has concluded that an early abort (up to a minute after launch) of NASA Marshall Flight Center's Ares I rocket would have a ~100% chance of killing all crew (report summary and link), even if the launch escape system were activated. This would be due to the capsule being surrounded until ground impact by a 3-mile-wide cloud of burning solid propellant fragments, which would melt the parachute. NASA management has stated that their computer models predict a safe outcome. The Air Force has also been hesitant to give launch range approval to the predecessor Ares I-X suborbital rocket, since its solid rocket vibrations are violent enough to disable both its steering and self-destruct module, endangering people on the ground."

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